March 27, 2020

95: Navigating Cultural Diversity with Jonah Fisher

Companies often talk about culture, but rarely talk about cultural differences. When team members from different countries come together, they must navigate their cultural differences and create a shared team culture that enables the team to do great work.

Jonah Fisher is the Director of Seeds of Peace’s international innovation arm, GATHER. His passion for social innovation has led him to the building of a microfinance organization during the global recession, an interfaith service-learning program during times of unprecedented bigotry in the US, an international social-entrepreneurship accelerator, and most recently, a co-working space for social entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv.

We talk about culture and what it is, how to read cultural cues, how to connect and build relationships across cultures, how to work with team members around the world at a distance, and how to balance having a consistent culture that is comfortable for everyone and having diversity in culture that enhances the team.

Read the related blog article: How To Form A Cohesive Team Across Cultural Divides

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  • A person’s culture is influenced by their family and country or society they grew up in. It impacts everything from how they dress to what they eat to how they speak. Often we don’t recognize our own culture until we confront someone with a different culture.
  • Creating a cohesive team culture is challenging when you’re working with people from many different countries. It’s important to pay attention to cultural differences as they can be a great strength.
  • Interviewing for cultural fit is important. Cultural fit doesn’t mean everyone has the same culture but rather there is alignment in vision and values so that when there is conflict, it is handled productively.
  • Use the interview time to get to know the person beyond their skills and experiences. What do they care about, what’s their story.
  • Use culturally appropriate humor to get a sense of the person and show warmth. Look for cues that can help you adjust your tone to match theirs.
  • Trust your instincts when building a culturally diverse team. Your intuition often knows whether someone will fit and their differences will enhance the culture.
  • Get to know each person’s culture as a team. Listen actively and show your genuine understanding and support for them through your words and actions.
  • Find shared struggles to quickly develop connections. Commiserating over shared pain is the fastest way to see our shared humanity.
  • Bring the team together in person whenever possible to help build or strengthen the bonds. Despite the challenges of time zones, use virtual meetings to keep the team connected.
  • Don’t rely on text communications alone. Too many misunderstandings occur via written messages.
  • Agree on your technology tools so everyone can collaborate in a streamlined way.


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